The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack

A PAINFUL REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

The Miami Dolphins not only lost their season finale 30-24 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, thus ending the season 7-9, but the game also proved to be a painful reversal of the good fortune of last season. Rather than repeating as Division Champs, the painful reversal of fortune saw both Chad Henne and Pat White leave the game due to injury while the Fins went from Champs to chumps, finishing a mere one game out of last place in their division.

A season that began with the Fins ceremoniously unfurling their AFC East Champs flag ended rather unceremoniously on Sunday with a loss to the Steelers that brought them to a sub-.500 finish. The 4 fewer wins than last season was certainly not a good sign, but the difference is probably best explained by the confluence of the evil eye the Fins’ received from both the scheduling gods and the injury gods (rather than by any fall-off in talent on the roster). The tough schedule was a function of their first place finish in 2008; the injury problems were just a matter of bad luck. And that bad luck carried right into the last game of the season when injuries to Chad Henne and Pat White forced emergency quarterback Tyler Thigpen into the game.

The injury to Henne was puzzling; the injury to White was downright frightening. Henne came out of the locker room at the start the second half and no one in the had a clue that anything was wrong, except for the fact that he was wearing a baseball cap rather than a helmet after the Fins received the kickoff. As announced by Coach Sparano during his post-game remarks, Henne had sustained a head injury that resulted in blurred vision. So Pat White came out to start the second half. White appeared to be in over his head and it appeared that it was only a matter of time until he, too, would have to come out of the game. But no one could have predicted what would ultimately force him form the game. Sadly, White received a very scary hit to the head at the Steelers’ sideline that frightened the nearby Steelers who started frantically waiving to the Fins’ sideline for medical help. A group of Steelers players knelt in prayer nearby as the crowd grew silent and the stadium crew brought out a cart. During a lengthy delay, White was strapped onto a gurney, placed onto the cart and then taken to be air-lifted to the hospital. It was truly a horrendous site to observe. Fortunately, the post-game report from Sparano was that he had movement of all his extremities and was doing well.

Funny thing about Thigpen’s first game-action as a Dolphin was that he almost engineered a huge come-from-behind win. After coming into the game deep into the third quarter with the Fins down by 17, he engineered 2 touchdown drives on his first 2 possessions. The defense then proceeded to sack Roethlisberger and force a fumble that the Fins recovered at the Steelers’ 13 yard line. They were in easy field goal range for Dan Carpenter who was 25 of 28 (89.3%) for the season and needed only a short field goal to tie the game. Things were looking quite good for the Fins. But that’s when Thigpen decided to show why he was deemed expendable by the Kansas City Chiefs in the first place who had sent him to the Fins in a trade after Chad Pennington’s season-ending injury in week 3. He threw into double coverage and was intercepted at the 2-yard line. The Steelers then drove the ball almost the length of the field before kicking a short field goal in the last minute that made the score 30-24. On first down, at a time when the Fins needed to go 79 yards with no time outs remaining for a go-ahead touchdown, Thigpen overthrew an open Davone Bess for what became a season-ending interception.

The Fins got into a hole in the first place because their defense could not stop the Steelers who both rushed and threw for over 200 yards each against the Fins’ defense. It was the third consecutive week that the Fins’ defense put them in a hole from which they could not recover, despite valiant second-half attempts each time.

Before he was injured, Chad Henne was 16 of 20 (80%) for 140 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. Although he has not yet proven himself to be an elite NFL quarterback, he has made some good progress over the course of the 13 starts he made during his sophomore season.

Meanwhile, Ted Ginn, the Fins’ supposed number one receiver, caught 3 passes for all of 20 yards. Ironically, Ginn failed to get a first down on his longest catch of the day, an 8-yarder, because he backed out of bounds after catching the ball rather than trying to get to the first down marker. Dolfans have seen that lack of heart from Ginn far too many times. He has got to be the poorest receiver in the NFL when it comes to yards after catch. His performance against the Steelers was no exception.

And so the Fins ended their season the way it had begun, with a 3-game losing streak. In between they did manage to go 7-3, but those 7 sandwiched wins were not enough to put them into the post-season. Between the quarterback injuries on Sunday and the season-ending 3-game losing streak, it was a rather painful reversal of fortune for the 2009 Dolphins.

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